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Service-Minded Roanoke Student Gives to New Orleans

Julia Childers of Roanoke is among 30 people from James Madison University in Harrisonburg,  who are heading to destinations throughout the United States to spend Thanksgiving Break volunteering.  Instead of returning home to their families and celebrating over turkey and mashed potatoes, students will serve hot meals to the homeless, build affordable housing and spend time with patients living with HIV/AIDS. Three Alternative Thanksgiving Break trips planned by students will take place in Georgia and Louisiana during JMU’s Nov. 19-26 break.

JMU’s award-winning Alternative Break Program provides learning opportunities for students outside of the classroom where they focus on social issues by interacting with a local nonprofit, living simply and reflecting on the critical issues faced by the people they serve.

Childers is a part of a 10-member team working at Project Lazarus, a New Orleans-based organization that works to provide long-term care for HIV/AIDS patients in a home-like environment.  During the trip, students will spend one-on-one time with patients and assist when needed throughout the facility.

“We are looking forward to visiting Project Lazarus and putting both faces and personalities to the HIV/AIDS disease,” said Childers, senior health sciences major.  “It’s important to realize every statistic we hear about the disease correlates to an individual, such as the ones we will meet in New Orleans. We can’t wait to go and to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with a ‘new’ family.”

Students pay $250 to participate in the Atlanta trip.  Fundraising projects led by the students and advisors help with some of the costs of the trips.

From the first Alternative Spring Break in 1992, the JMU program has grown to encompass alternative break trips at Thanksgiving, Spring Break and May Break. The JMU program is the Break Away National Program of the Year for 2010 in recognition of the university’s commitment to active citizenship. The program earned the same award in 1999 from Break Away, a national nonprofit organization that supports the development of quality alternative break programs at colleges and other nonprofit organizations.

For information about JMU’s Alternative Break Program, including an interactive map showcasing past service trips, and Community Service-Learning, check

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